Best Practices for Moving or Migrating to SharePoint

As organizations look to migrate to SharePoint or consider upgrading to a newer version of SharePoint, we recommend that you look at the current environment, structure and how information is organized.

Each of our clients organize their SharePoint sites differently and best practices suggest that you should create a model for your enterprise before sites are constructed.  It is true that the SharePoint/Microsoft 365 is more flexible and “re-arrangeable” than ever, however, a well-constructed model allows the organization to see where both data and new information “fits in” to the enterprise.  The model is the plan where the organization can incrementally move to Office 365. 

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Pre-Migration Planning: Understanding the Environment

Obviously, the model for each Microsoft 365 tenant is different because the business use and institutional knowledge is different among Microsoft customers. To construct a model, you have to clearly understand the existing systems, user customs, and desired improvements (ex. Migrating shared drives to SharePoint) that should be performed.  The research should identify, among other things:

In the Existing SharePoint system

  • Document volume
  • Overall storage size
  • Number of sites
  • Number of site collections
  • Workflows
  • Custom solutions
  • Third Party Software
  • Backup Strategy
  • Custom Permissions
  • Organization structure
  • Existing Navigation

In the Existing File Share

  • Number of documents
  • Total Size
  • Folders in use
  • File Share Organization

Added Functionality

  • Governance objectives
  • Teams
  • Other Office 365 products (Planner, Stream, Outlook, etc.)
  • Development (Power Automate & Power Apps)
  • Business Intelligence (Power BI)
  • OneDrive
  • Active Directory implications
  • External sharing

Often, in this planning phase it is important to address old data and getting rid of junk and clutter whenever possible. There is simply no good reason to migrate data that is outdated or won’t serve a purpose for users.

Understanding Usage Patterns

The model should account for typical usage patterns.  For instance, if the majority of the workforce is office-based, then typical hardware is a desktop or laptop, so the typical presentation is through the desktop browser.  However, if the majority of the workforce are distributed or working remotely, then perhaps a mobile first (Phone and tablet) strategy is more appropriate.  Additionally, the model should account for information production and consumption patterns.  An Intranet, for example, usually has few information producers and many information consumers, so the biggest bang for the buck comes at making the information very easy to consume (high consumption) which may come at the expense of higher production costs (more curation and categorization of data, with greater publication restrictions).  Collaboration, however, has a balanced production and consumption pattern, since each producer is also a consumer and vice-versa.

Understanding Consumption

The model should also consider the most comfortable/familiar consumption patterns used to organize data.  Should the data be organized by department, or is the company geographically disbursed (with ensuing regulation) so that the data is organized by location?  Other organizational schemes include the organizing by task, process, scenario or function, or organizing data by portfolio of goods or services.

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Often, the model for Microsoft 365, is a hybrid, where internal consumption information (Intranet: Reusable resource / reference material​, Published or approved, curated content) is organized by function, collaboration activities (building documents and deliverables, unit-specific content, work in progress, etc.) are organized by organization, and applications, processes and workflows (event pipelines, dashboards, metrics) are organized together.

Organization and Structure

Again, Microsoft 365’s organizational structure is more changeable than ever, but the ease of change is dependent upon the way sites, lists and libraries are constructed.

With a model for Microsoft 365’s structure in place, it becomes a straight-forward exercise to map existing sites/data to their new location.  A completed map also serves as a checkpoint to verify that the overall scheme makes sense (are similar data grouped together?  Do I understand where the data I work on all the time fits in?)

Governance

Along with a model, governance is constructed.  Governance always starts with the Principle of Least Privilege, where you only get the rights to perform the tasks you are authorized.  With Common Off The Shelf (COTS) software such as Microsoft 365, its generic nature and flexible roles often allow for additional rights that users may or may not know they have.  Here Governance Policy steps in to state what can and can’t be done (even though the user may have the rights to do it).  Governance goes hand-in-hand with permissions, and people who administer permissions must also receive appropriate training.  An overall governance model must be developed to address the operational spectrum of Microsoft 365.  The spectrum starts at “IT controls everything” within Microsoft 365 and can go all the way to complete “delegated authority of data” to organizational units.

Other Considerations

SharePoint On-Premise to SharePoint Online Considerations

  • Migration from the latest version of SharePoint On-premise (SharePoint 2019) to SharePoint online is the easiest migration.  This migration becomes harder as the On-Premise version gets older (SharePoint 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007) with SharePoint 2007 the most difficult.
  • Migration also becomes more difficult the more versions of documents which need to be migrated (we recommend 0-5 versions), as older versions of documents tend to have migration problems.
  • Links also tend to be problematic, as SharePoint’s On-Premise URL is generally shorter than the SharePoint Online URL.  Long links can cause data migration to fail.
  • Bulk throughput is limited in SharePoint online.  Due to the number of files, and throughput limitations, the migration should have a plan to be performed in an incremental fashion, since an “over the weekend” implementation, for all but the smallest sites, is not possible.
  • What will be done with “My Sites” data?  Migrating “My Sites” files to the user’s OneDrive sites increases the migration workload.  

File Shares to SharePoint Online Considerations

  • Due to technical limitations, the existing Shared Drive folder structure may not be replicable in SharePoint online.
  • Certain special characters in filenames are allowed in File Shares (NTFS), but they are not allowed in SharePoint, files can be renamed, but the renamed file may confuse users.
  • Bulk throughput is limited in SharePoint online.  Due to the number of files, and throughput limitations, the migration should have a plan to be performed in an incremental fashion, since an “over the weekend” implementation, for all but the smallest sites, is not possible.  
  • A file share migration is an opportunity to re-evaluate the existing organization of files.  A straight copy gives organization wide access and searchability to the files, however this may miss opportunities to reorganize the data for better use.

Retention and Expiration Policies

During a conversion to Office 365 many customers also want to address retention and expiration.  Should data be retained for specific periods, limiting the user’s ability to delete files?  Should the data be automatically deleted when it gets to the end of a defined period? Microsoft 365 has capabilities to address these needs, and these features can be applied now or at any time in the future.  Implementing these features will add additional time to any implementation.

Backup options should be addressed.  While your data is safe in Microsoft 365, there is not capability to take the system back to a certain “point in time” without 3rd party software.

Don’t Forget About Microsoft Teams

Teams, the newest part of Microsoft 365, is the consolidating front-end to all of Microsoft 365’s capabilities.  Strategies and Governance regarding the creation and maintenance of teams should be discussed and employed.


This may all seem like way too much to absorb. No worries! This is what we do. We help organizations get to SharePoint and we can assist an organization in upgrading to the latest and greatest version of SharePoint. Understanding what goes into making a move is important, and now that you know, we can talk about your vision, help you plan, and assist you in making the move! Contact us to learn more.

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